Pindar was the most famous writer of epinikia, or victory odes:
but my hero was Simonides.
Yes, Simonides was the first writer to charge for his work.
Pindar wrote most of his odes to celebrate victories in the Greek Games. There were four lots of Games in those days: as well as the Olympian Games they had the Pythian, Isthmian and Nemean Games as well (oh, HURRAY for modern times).
A victory at the Games in those days was a sign of the great riches of the athlete's* home town, and got the town a lot of respect. An epinikion would be performed in the victor's home town, perhaps on the anniversary of his victory. It would probably be sung and danced by a chorus to the music of a phorminx:
or an aulos:
A epinikion would usually consist of a bit of praise of a god (Pindar never mentioned the gods' naughtier deeds) then go on to say how great the victor was - a real community man, a complete hero - and then end up with a warning to him not to forget he was just a man.
No one has ever found Pindar's odes easy to understand. The comedian Eupolis, who was born just a few years after Pindar's death, said that Pindar's odes would never last because people couldn't be bothered with all that elegant learning.
He had a point. But, hey, he was wrong, wasn't he. I mean, two and a half millinnia after he wrote his odes people are still wondering what on earth he was going on about.
If epinikia seem to have gone out of fashion, consider this: Nike was the goddess of victory. Think of that as you lace your trainers.
Thing To Compose Today: an epinikion. Well, why not? Epinikion is a Greek word. The epi bit means on and the nike bit means victory.
*Usually an athlete, though sometimes a musician.